Norwalk native Ernst Turnier may seem an unlikely sort to design and open his own café.
First of all, he was a Bulldog in high school (see below).
In college, he studied applied psychology and human relations, not culinary arts or design.
He lives most of all for professional sports – football, basketball, whatever and he invariably wears a New York Yankees cap.
Plus—He’s only 25.
But Turnier, who opened Café Turnier at 115 Main St. across from the Continental Manor in Norwalk in February, lives to apply his love of sports to all he does, including serving tasty fare at low prices in a sports-friendly atmosphere.
“I’m serious about everything I do," says Turnier, who decorated the walls of the former tailoring and convenience shop with his own impressive sports memorabilia.
That includes the signature “41” shirts and helmets he wore as a line backer for his Stratford high school football team, the Bulldogs, and the Setters, Pace University’s football team. As captain of the high school team, he helped take it for the first time to state playoffs, and he was named all-conference player for both teams.
“When I do something, I want to be the best at it,” he says during a mid-morning lull.
“The memorabilia means a lot to me,” he says of his display of the trophies, medals and awards he earned as a player.
“Sports helped me be someone in life by teaching me how to set goals and prioritize,” he explains.
“I try to preach to neighborhood kids the importance of playing sports,” he adds.
“The community’s looking to you to win and sports gives the opportunity to do that,” he says.
Turnier attracts a busy morning crowd with takeout egg combos, such as The Classic (bacon, eggs and cheese with coffee, $3) and Home Run (eggs, hash browns, bacon, ham and sausage on a hard roll, $5.25).
Come lunchtime, hearty sandwiches made to order are all priced under $6.
The Bulldog at $5.99 features blackened chicken breast, Monterey jack cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers and chipotle mayo ($5.99).
Jayda’s Wrap—named for his three-year-old niece—comes with Cajun chicken, lettuce, croutons, tomatoes, onions, parmesan cheese and Caesar dressing ($5.89).
Once the lunch crowd thins out around 1:30, Turnier turns his talents to the Haitian cuisine he learned from his immigrant parents.
The “$6 til 6” Haitain plates commonly feature rice and beans with chicken, beef or pork (pasta on Wednesdays) flavored with Creole and Cajun spices.
There’s also a “Deal of the Day” every day, such as a $4 Chicken Parm.
The overhead TV plays ESPN sports all day till closing time.
Open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Friday; 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturdays; 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sundays